Archive for February, 2010

Leader Standard Work Should Be…Work!

leader standard work is work picThis may be a blinding flash of the obvious, but while leaders typically work hard, it’s a different type of work. Most leaders are engaged in a lot of firefighting. We need less of that and more work on ensuring process adherence and performance with more coaching and development. That’s where lean management systems, of which leader standard work is a major element, come into play.

The interesting thing is that leaders don’t necessarily like to do leader standard work. Implementing can be like pulling teeth. Why? Well, it requires a change in behavior, there is more rigor (when compared to the lots of meetings and fire fighting work style), there is a new level of transparency and accountability and there is the need to engage, coach, and sometimes confront others. Let’s explore these things a bit.


Most leaders have no problem with other people doing standard work. However, often their tune changes when it’s required of them.

Leader standard work specifies audit points and (sometimes) tasks. The audit points specify where and when in the value stream the leader must physically go, what they must check and the normal condition that they seek to verify with the aid of effective visual controls. This is a major part of their standardize-do-check-act (SDCA) role. The time spent executing leader standard work varies depending upon the leader’s  level and role within the organization. For example, a supervisor may dedicate as much as 50+%  of their day on leader standard work, while a value stream manager may spend 15% of their day.

A lean leader’s standard work, among other things, may require him to check a particular work cell once in the morning and once in the afternoon to ensure that the workers are maintaining their plan vs. actual chart (usually by hour),  and that specific and meaningful reasons for any shortfalls are documented. The lean leader may also be required to initial and write the time of their review on the chart as proof that they conducted this part of their leader standard work.

Transparency and Accountability

As in any lean environment, secrets are a bad thing. We want to be problem solvers, not problem hiders.

At the conclusion of a lean leader’s day (by a specified time), the leader should be required to insert their completed leader standard work form within a designated clear bin or sleeve posted in a prominent place. Their name and leader standard work deadline should be on the bin along with a red flag (or something suitably obnoxious) behind the bin, so that it is quite obvious who has met the deadline and who has not.

Similarly, on a daily basis, the next level leader should peruse the submitted leader standard work for completion, identified abnormal conditions and sufficiency of recorded countermeasures to address the abnormal conditions. The next level leader would do well to note certain things, for example patterns of incomplete audits, recurring abnormal conditions (guess we’re not getting at the root cause), lack of abnormal conditions (are we really being rigorous in our audits?), etc. and then coach their subordinates as required. Coaching can often be done in the context of one-on-one gemba walks.

Engagement, Coaching, and Confrontation

Guess what? If the application of the leader standard work requires us to go the gemba and make direct observations specific to conditions around process adherence and process performance, then there are going to be plenty of opportunities for genuine investigation, coaching and sometimes confrontation.

We always want to live the lean principle of respect for the individual. That is why when we encounter an abnormal condition we should ask why (5X). Our countermeasures and coaching should follow suit –  a worker’s lack of process performance due to a shortfall in training is handled much differently than if it is due to a decided case of worker apathy.

It sounds like a lot of work, but this powerful means of SDCA is worth it! What’s your experience been implementing leader standard work?

Related posts: Stretch, Don’t Break – 5 ways to grow your people, Leader Standard Work – You can pay me now, or you can pay me later

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How’s Your Lean Conscience?

Cricket picI’m guessing very few have asked that question before. Conscience is a judgment of reason by which we recognize the quality of an act before, during or after we do it. It’s really not Jiminy Cricket, although his quote, “A conscience is that still small voice that people won’t listen to,” isn’t too far off the mark.

So, what’s a lean conscience and who should have one? Well, a lean conscience is a judgment of reason by which we can tell whether we’re living lean principles (respect for the individual, humility, flow, pull, scientific thinking, integration of improvement with work, etc.). Lean leaders and practitioners should have a lean conscience.

Of course, with “ownership” (of a conscience) comes responsibility. Traditionally, there are three obligations people have when it comes to their conscience.

1. Act on it. If our conscience is well formed (see #2, below), we should act on our lean conscience. How many times do lean leaders walk by a process in which people are not working in accordance with standard work or there are defects and it’s business as usual (jidoka?…later, man) or perhaps there’s a situation where we could have coached someone so that they could have solved the problem, instead we “gave” them the answer because we didn’t have the patience, or…you get the point.

2. Form it. It’s possible to have an improperly formed lean conscience. Maybe there are some significant holes in the understanding of lean principles, systems or tools. Big gaps can cause big problems. Who hasn’t encountered issues when people who are supposed to know better are “serial batchers?” We are obligated to keep on studying and learning by doing so that we can continue to form and inform our lean conscience.

3. Don’t act if there is uncertainty. Well, maybe we should disregard this one. This does not mean that we should throw caution to the wind, but we need to be experimentalists, not with lean principles themselves, but in the application of the systems and tools within our own particular value streams. Of course, when in doubt, getting started, and/or when there is some real business risk, get a sensei.

So, here’s a call for some hansei (reflection). How’s your lean conscience? Does it bother you? Do you need to form it some more?

Related Post: Everyone Is Special, But Lean Principles Are Universal!

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Ready! Fire! Aim!…Maybe, We Should Have REALLY Simulated First!?

ready fire aim picOne of kaizen‘s unofficial taglines is, “Just do it.” And it makes sense. We try to spin the PDCA wheel as fast and as frequently as possible in order to experiment and quickly learn and make adjustments. But, sometimes we should just do it AFTER careful and extensive simulation. It seems wimpy, but it’s about managing risk. Lean leaders should care about that.

So, when does it make sense to simulate an improvement? We actually do it all the time when we trystorm. Trystorming is a melding of brainstorming and simulation. It can be really simple stuff or it can be much more involved. People tend to be fairly OK with the simple stuff, but start getting weak in the knees when meaty simulation is required. They don’t want to take too much time simulating. It can be slow and tedious.

Simple simulation. People can tolerate simple simulation like pantomiming the new standard work sequence with a draft standard work sheet and standard work combination sheet in hand before they try it out for the first time. Then they can make adjustments on the way. Hey, who wouldn’t be OK with that level of effort and spontaneity?

More extensive. The more extensive simulations take time and require a certain rigor. Why do we need to endure this pain? Because the implementation of improved or brand new systems can cause big problems if we don’t iron out some of the more substantial flaws. Often we don’t know what we don’t know. Here are two types of extensive simulations.

  • Many people apply 3P (production preparation process) when developing substantially new or improved processes  and/or products.  As we all know, locking in a poorly designed product or process is a recipe for long-term pain and suffering. In brief, 3P is a team-based methodology in which the members down-select from multiple alternatives to seven different ways for a new improved process (or product), simulate the new process with crude, inexpensive, and quickly applied materials (PVC, cardboard, wood, duct tape, etc.), then whittle down the options to three best process designs (as measured against predetermined selection criteria), followed by more trystorming and then ultimate selection.
  • Supermarket pull is a wonderful thing when properly applied, but you’ve got to get it right in order to ensure that the downstream customers are not starved and that there is no excess inventory. Pull system or kanban system simulations are extremely valuable. Using production kanban as an example, after taking a first cut at demand analysis, percent load analysis, determining what the kanban strategy will be (i.e., in process, batch – pattern, batch board, triangle), sizing the kanban, formulating the draft standard work (how/who/when regarding kanban posts, emergency kanbans, scheduling protocol, etc.), etc., we need to simulate the system using real historical demand data and some invented surprises.  The simulation requires cards for all of the inventory, mock kanban posts, “scheduling,” capacity analysis…the whole nine yards! It is critical to find out when and where the system breaks in a big way and then figure out what needs to be adjusted…before it goes live.

So, what are your experiences with either high intensity simulations or implementations where it would have been a good idea to simulate (or simulate better)?

Related posts: Kaizen Principle: Be like MacGyver, use creativity before capital!, Check Please! Without it, PDCA and SDCA do NOT work.

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TWI: Let’s Not Forget the Original Cause and Those Who Sacrifice(d)

TWI picTraining Within Industry (TWI), specifically the JM or Job Methods program (one of three within TWI), is a seed of kaizen. TWI, so successfully applied in the U.S. to increase WWII wartime production, was exported to post-war Japan…and then promptly forgotten in the U.S.

The TWI export, in combination with Deming‘s sharing of the Shewhart cycle (PDCA), served as much of the feedstock for the Toyota Production System. But truly this Gemba Tales post is not about TWI or anything lean. It’s really about those within our armed services who sacrificed so much in prior conflicts and who sacrifice now.

LSS Academy’s Ron Pereira has just posted what he calls perhaps his most significant blog article. It is a heartfelt posting in which he recognizes the sacrifice of our men and women in the military. Ron has also graciously committed to purchase care packages with the profits realized from sales (now until Easter) of the LSS Academy Guide to Lean audio book. As Ron has requested, please keep our military personnel and their families in your thoughts and prayers and consider buying his audio book. Ron, you’re an inspiration.

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Subsidiarity: A (Medieval) Lean Principle

Subsidiarity picRon Pereira has been gracious enough to allow me to guest blog on his LSS Academy blog. I hope  that you find my post on subsidiarity (yes, there really is a lean connection) of value and take the opportunity to check out LSS Academy’s great insights and offerings.

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Everyone Is Special, But Lean Principles Are Universal!

barney picMy three children are well beyond the Barney years. It’s been about 10 years since I was subjected to that song, but unfortunately it is burned into my brain, “Everyone is special, special. Everyone is special…” Of course, I don’t disagree with that sentiment, just the inane song. However, when it comes to lean implementation, people seem to sing that very song, just with different words.

We’ve seen lean adoption successfully expand across a number of different industries, resistance slowly receding as new frontiers were explored and barriers breached. First (in very broad terms) lean was a Toyota thing, then it was perceived as something for the automotive industry (who hasn’t heard the plaintive cry from someone resisting lean that goes something like, “we aren’t making cars here!”), then a manufacturing thing, then lean started making inroads within transactional businesses, now health care, etc., etc.  Just the other day, I was reviewing a lean health care case study for a company that does a lot in the lab and manufacturing operations (long story). At the conclusion of the review a manufacturing engineer noted that lean seems to work in health care, but was skeptical as to whether it worked in manufacturing. Doh!!

There are mounds of empirical evidence that lean works and can work in virtually any value stream. The expectation is not that everyone has to be a carbon copy of Toyota or anyone else for that matter. It’s pretty much impossible and probably is not the most effective path. Companies are different (special) from the perspective of culture, strategic imperatives, value streams, etc. BUT lean principles are lean principles. They apply to everyone.

The Shingo Prize’s Transformation Model for Operational Excellence identifies, among other things, 10 basic principles. These principles transcend the lean tools and systems (the “know how”) and represent the “know why” of lean transformation. A deeper understanding of the principles, according the Shingo Prize model, “…empower[s] the organization to develop and deploy specific methodologies and practices unique to the organization.” Unique means “special” in Barney language.

Here are the 10 Shingo Prize model principles within four “dimensions.” I encourage you to go to the Shingo Prize website and read through the model. If you can’t agree that the principles apply to your business, well…you’re not going to successfully implement lean in a meaningful way.

  • Cultural Enablers – 1. respect for the individual, 2. humility
  • Continuous Process Improvement – 3. flow/pull, 4. process focus, 5. scientific thinking, 6. integration of improvement with work, 7. seek perfection
  • Consistent Lean Enterprise Culture – 8. systemic thinking, 9. constancy of purpose
  • Business Results – 10. create value

So, the question shouldn’t be whether lean will work in your corner of the world. It can. The question should be more about how are you going to best apply lean tools and systems within the context of (satisfying) the principles.

What do you think?

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The Human Side of the Kaizen Event – Part II

human side pic 3Last week, Defense Industry Daily posted the first half of an article authored by yours truly and Chuck Wolfe. Well, the second half of “Want an Effective Kaizen Event? Don’t Forget the Human Side!” is now posted. Actually, the whole article is now posted.

Among other things, part two introduces the Transformation Leadership Model. This model, covered in chapter three of the Kaizen Event Fieldbook, explores the two-pronged leadership approach to lean transformation – one technical and the other more behavioral in nature. Both need to work in concert and both are founded upon humility and respect for the individual.

I think it’s good stuff. Please check it out and let me know what you think. Click here if you missed my post on the first half of the article.

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Sensei Facilitation Style – Scary or human?

dentist picI recently facilitated a five team, week long kaizen event. The teams made some very significant improvements (more kaikaku than kaizen). There was one team that I was especially concerned about from the very beginning – their scope was fairly expansive, the challenges not trivial by any means and the team members not exactly lean experts. So, I stayed on them quite a bit, coaching, cajoling, poking and prodding.

In the end, the team on the “watch list” implemented a number of great improvement ideas and transformed the target process from the perspective of flow, visual and capacity management, standard work and leader standard work. Frankly, I think they surprised themselves! They definitely progressed in lean understanding, kaizen, change management and confidence…all necessary things if you’re trying to create and sustain a lean culture.

After the report out, the team leader likened me to a dentist, “We hate [the experience] until the tooth is fixed and then it’s not so bad.” Not something I wish to put on my tombstone, but I’ll take it. I consider myself typically a “Cho-san style” facilitator.  Bob Emiliani, in his book Better Thinking, Better Results, differentiates between two basic facilitation styles. One being the “suzumura style,” ostensibly named after a zealous disciple of Taiichi Ohno, Kiko Suzumura and meaning “scary style.” Suzumura style is characterized by “strict, demanding, short-tempered, insulting and demeaning” behavior.  Cho style, after Fujio Cho, now Chairman of Toyota Motor Company, while still demanding, incorporates and even temper, respect, humility benevolence, and humor.  Of course, depending upon the predominant culture, resistance to change and size of the performance gaps, sometimes one style is more appropriate than the other.

So, what’s your experience with facilitation styles? What have you found to be the most effective?

Other relevant posts: Stretch, Don’t Break – 5 ways to grow your people, The Human Side of the Kaizen Event – 11 Questions for Lean Leaders

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The Human Side of the Kaizen Event – 11 Questions for Lean Leaders

human side PicYesterday, Defense Industry Daily posted the first half of an article which I co-wrote with Chuck Wolfe, “Want an Effective Kaizen Event? Don’t Forget the Human Side!” The second half will be posted next week. Within the article, Chuck an I explore that which is beyond the more obvious technical side of kaizen event management. We delve into the realm of emotions (and emotional intelligence), respect for the individual, humility and lean transformation leadership – all which must be properly considered and leveraged in order to conduct effective kaizen events and, most importantly, develop a lean culture.

Now I don’t want to steal any thunder from the article, but I would like to share 11 questions that all lean leaders must answer in order to enjoy kaizen event success and ultimately drive a lean transformation. These questions are aligned within the basic phases of kaizen event management that are detailed in my Kaizen Event Fieldbook:

  • Strategy. 1) Why, how, where and when should lean leaders employ kaizen events to drive value stream improvements and satisfy strategic imperatives, while also positively exposing and engaging stakeholders within the process?
  • Pre-event planning. 2) How can lean leaders best select kaizen event team members for event, employee development and change management impact? 3) How should lean leaders communicate to event-affected employees the what, why, how and when of the planned event? 4) How can lean leaders best train event team leaders and participants so that they are ready for the challenge of the event (discomfort is expected, anxiety not so much . See Stretch, Don’t Break – 5 ways to grow your people)? 5) How can lean leaders identify existing feelings in key stakeholders? 6) What feelings are likely to generate forces to push forward and what feelings are likely to hold back positive change? 7) How do lean leaders eliminate/manage negative feelings and create the ideal feelings supportive of changes they wish to make?
  • Event execution. 8 ) How will lean leaders conduct the kaizen event in order to best satisfy and then sustain the event targets while also engaging, challenging, stretching, supporting and developing team members and the organization?
  • Event follow-through. 9) How can lean leaders best recognize the event participants for their effort and accomplishments? 10) How can lean leaders ensure process adherence (to the new standard work) and process performance as well as completion of any “newspaper” items and therefore sustain the kaizen team’s hard earned gains? 11) How can lean leaders continuously improve the kaizen event process, its effectiveness and stakeholder satisfaction…so that they will want to participate in future kaizen events?

So, am I missing any relevant questions? What do you think?

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